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Old 01-02-2008, 04:15 PM   #1
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Low Tech Planted Tank

I followed a recipe that used garden dirt, vermiculite, and osmocote under a top layer of sand. It worked well for about a year, and then the plants began to get sparser and sparser. I figure the substrate is getting compacted and the roots can't breathe in addition to the substrate ferts getting depleted. I've added some fert tabs for the substrate and I'm dosing the water column with Flourish Comprehensive, but I don't know what to do about the compaction since stirring it up would bring up mud and mix it with the sand and with the water column. Any recommendations?
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Old 01-06-2008, 02:06 AM   #2
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I don't have a direct answer for you, but I'll recount my experience with a low tech, low light set up.

I've pasted a link to a pic of the tank, this was quite soon after it was set up.


I just used gravel as a substrate. I used the Flourish range of products for quite some time and while using them I had extremely good results. I did use a product available here in Australia called Dinosaur Dung, which is just a pellet of dried clay with nutrients in it. You put in under the gavel near where you plant the plants. It worked ok but would cloud the water when disturbed during re-planting. The lighting was 2 36W flouro tubes. I am reluctant to use anything other than gravel because of the compaction. Plus when that occurs, you can get oxygen depletion in the substrate leading to sufur dioxide production.

I hope that someone with experience with your situation reads the thread and can offer more positive advice.
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Old 01-06-2008, 08:02 PM   #3
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Nice tank. Krystal Kasselman recommended clay balls too in her relatively famous book on planted tanks. I haven't tried it yet. She also said don't divide the photoperiod into more than one segment, but she gave no reason. I've been doing it for over a year with no adverse results. I have my lights on from 6:15 AM to 8:15 AM and from 4 PM to 10PM. This gives the max time with lights on when people are there to observe or to work on the tanks. To me, it's like having a cloudy day during the middle of the day. I don't see what harm it could do.
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Old 01-06-2008, 09:05 PM   #4
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I experimented with dirt mixes & it was very messy when disturbed. I end up redoing the entire tank as the goldies keep digging & I never get the water clear.

Short of a complete tear down, the only suggestion I have is to gradually mix in some more granular stuff (if you are sure that it is root compaction rather than nutrient depletion .... if you have enough vermiculite to start with, the dirt should not be too compacted ... ). I would suggest something like Shultz's aqua soil (basically 1/8" clay pellets) or very small gravel so there will be no future compaction. Put a layer on top & gently work it into the sand & substrate. It will be VERY messy, so you might want to remove all your inhabitants (with maybe half the water). After you mix everything together, you will end up with a single layer, so you will have to put an additional layer of sand on top if you want the sand look. Do a 100% water change to get rid of most of the suspended particulates, (or 2 or 3 100% changes until the water is clear enough). Refill half way the last time & return your fish & the saved tank water (so the fishies will only see a 50% pwc to reduce shock).
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